Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lucy McKim Garrison, 1842-1877
By Rachel Craft, M.A., Independent Historian
Lucy McKim Garrison was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 30, 1842, to James Miller McKim and Sarah Allibone Speakman. Her brother, Charles Follen McKim, became one of the prominent architects of the nineteenth century. The McKims were close friends with prominent Quaker abolitionists in the Philadelphia region, including James and Lucretia Mott. Early in her life, Lucy McKim Garrison was surrounded by influential activists in both the abolition and suffrage movements.
She attended the Eagleswood School in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which was operated by Angela Grimke Weld and her sister Sarah. After completing her education at there, McKim Garrison worked briefly as a piano teacher at the school. She then went to Port Royal, South Carolina, in 1865 with her father, who was the general secretary of the Port Royal Society. In McKim Garrison's short life, she worked closely with her father and the Garrison family to support the abolitionist movement. At the age of twenty-two, McKim Garrison published a collective work of composed slave songs with two other musicians, William Francis Allen and Charles Pickford Ware, titled Slave Songs of the United States. She documented the lyrics and the musical scores of enslaved communities in the aftermath of the Civil War. The collection, published in 1867, contains 136 songs. Prior to the final publication, Miss McKim arranged and published two of them, ‘Roll, Jordan' (No. 1) and ‘Poor Rosy' (No. 8) – which were considered the two best pieces in the collection. McKim Garrison pioneered efforts to document the songs of slaves in the southern United States to advocate for abolition and also preserve important history and culture.
After publishing Slave Songs of the United States, Lucy McKim Garrison married Wendell Phillip Garrison, son of prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, on December 6, 1865. She and Wendell settled in West Orange, New Jersey, where he worked as the literary editor of The Evening Post and the editor-in-charge of The Nation for over forty years. The Garrisons had three children together; Lloyd McKim in 1867, Phillip McKim in 1869, and Katherine McKim in 1873. Their son Phillip's future wife, Marion Knight McKim Garrison became a prominent supporter of the woman suffrage movement.
Lucy McKim Garrison's involvement in the nineteenth-century suffrage movement was limited, but influential. She was surrounded by prominent leaders of the suffrage movement for most of her life. She was life-long friends with Ellen Wright Garrison, daughter of Mary Coffin Wright and wife of William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. Lucy McKim Garrison and Ellen Wright Garrison wrote each other frequently and expressed their support for the advancement of women's rights. They wrote to each other of plans to never marry, and instead live together in a “‘Spanish castle.'” Ellen Wright Garrison outlived her friend Lucy and went on to become a member of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association after Lucy's death. While she was an outspoken supporter of the antebellum women's rights movement, her main focus was on black male suffrage. She did not believe that the two controversial issues should be intertwined as it would lead to the defeat of both.
Her husband Wendell Garrison advocated for women's equality in addition to his work for racial equality. In his obituary in The Woman's Journal from October 13, 1900, Lloyd McKim Garrison was described as a “firm believer in woman suffrage.” He also spoke at the New England Suffrage Festival in 1890 while still a student at Harvard Law School.
Following the birth of her daughter, Katherine, and the death of her father, McKim Garrison developed rheumatism and later became paralyzed from a fever. She died on May 11, 1877, in West Orange, New Jersey after suffering from illness. She is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, New Jersey. Though she only lived thirty-four short years, she was an influential advocate for the causes of abolition and woman suffrage.
Allen, William Francis, Charles Pickford Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison. Slave Songs of the United States. New York: A. Simpson & Co., 1867. Page ii.
Bacon, Margaret Hope. “Lucy McKim Garrison Pioneer in Folk Music,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 54, no. 1 (1987): 1-16. Page 2.
Charter, Samuel. Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and Slave Songs of the United States. Jackson, MI: University Press of Mississippi, 2015.
Davidson, Phebe E. “Lucy McKim Garrison.” In Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women. Edited by Joan M. Burstyn, et al. 143-144. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997. Pages 143-44.
Epstein, Dena J. “Garrison, Lucy McKim.” In Notable American Women, 1607-1950, Volume II: G-O. Edited by Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971. Pages 23-24. [LINK]
Epstein, Dena J. “Lucy McKim Garrison, American Musician.” New York Public Library Bulletin 67 (1963): 528-546. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015082926349;view=1up;seq=551.
Free, Laura E., “Suffrage reconstructed: Gender, Race, and Voting Rights in the Civil War Era,” Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2015, pgs. 53-54.
Garrison Family Papers, 1694-2005. Sophia Smith Collection. Smith College. Northampton, MA. http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/sophiasmith/mnsss175.html.
“In Memoriam.” The Woman's Journal: Boston. October 13, 1900. Page 324.
“The Garrison Family.” Across the Generations: Exploring U.S. History through Family Papers exhibition. The Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA 01063. https://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/atg/index.html.
“The Nation: Volume 84, No. 2175”, New York, March 7, 1907, pg 218.
The entire Slave Songs of the United States publication is digitized at http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/allen/menu.html.